As many of you know, the Hispanic Cultural Center is now becoming a controversy for the city. As is typical in El Paso politics there is much going on in the background that the public is not privy to. The controversy surrounding the proposed cultural center, under the 2012 Quality of Life bonds, is basically absent in the community dialog. The main reasons for this is the ineffective news media that either doesn’t understand what is going on or ignores it for political expediency. Eventually the controversy will explode on the public stage as result of the political backstory going on today. Unfortunately, the public record will be incomplete and the context to what led to the public controversy will be lost.

This is because that is how the politicians want it.

In an effort to maintain the context alive for the upcoming public controversy I want to start building a public record of how it is developing. Miguel Juárez, who has been a proponent of saving the Lincoln Center, has been active on the cultural center debacle. Juárez has started writing a blog about the issue on Newsies and I encourage you to follow him there. {Link} It is my understanding that Miguel Juárez will write often about the controversy.

Although Juárez has touched briefly on the backstory I want to take this opportunity to expand on it a little bit more.

To give you a little more context, I want to remind you that the city is currently faced with a serious deficit on funding the 2012 Quality of Life projects because of under-estimating the costs involved. As a result, some projects have been deleted and others have had their funds enhanced by other sources of monies. It is important to keep this in mind as you see the controversy continue to play out because money will ultimately play a part on how the cultural center is developed.

Currently there is one major controversy about whether the cultural center should include the word “Hispanic” as part of its official name. The controversy over the word has led to public discourse among the city representatives centered on the notion of “inclusiveness.” From this issue, another has emerged as to whether it is appropriate that the chair of the 2012 El Paso Bond Overview Advisory Committee (BOAC) be the chair of the BOAC subcommittee that will be advising city council on the cultural center.

The current BOAC chair is Bernie Sargent. Sargent has publicly taken the position that the cultural center was not approved by the voters as the “Hispanic Cultural Center” but rather the “Heritage Cultural Center.” As a result of this, Lily Limon has questioned whether Sargent should be the board chair of the sub-committee because of his stated bias.

Last Tuesday, after discussion by the city representatives about appointments to the sub-committee, the city attorney was instructed to bring an appropriate amendment to be voted on by city council on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 changing the requirement that Sargent be the chair of the sub-committee and instead having the sub-committee membership vote on whom they want as the chair.

The other item that emerged from the discussion is that city council wants to clarify whether the cultural center will be the “Hispanic” or the “Heritage” cultural center. The controversy has arisen because some city representatives, notably Ann Morgan Lilly and Claudia Ordaz are under the impression that the voters voted for a “Heritage” center.

The name issue has arisen because there is a discrepancy between the language on the ballot and the language in the ordinance that established the call for voters to vote on the cultural center as part of the 2012 Quality of Life bonds.

The ballot that voters used for voting on the city bonds labeled the cultural center as the “Cultural Heritage Center.” According to the city attorney, during the discussion about the appointment of committee members, the ordinance adopted by the city calls the proposed center the “Hispanic” cultural center. The city attorney opined that the ordinance takes precedence in the controversy and thus it is the “Hispanic” center.

On Tuesday, city council is expected to vote on whether the cultural center will be known as the “Heritage” or the “Hispanic” center. The item on the agenda is 24.1. Unfortunately, the backscatter will not be satisfied by settling the identity of the cultural center because what has not been publicly acknowledged and is likely driving all of the political shenanigans, regarding the center, is the lack of funds not only for it but also for the other pending projects promised to the voters.

With insufficient funds to properly fund the cultural center, the sub-committee will be driving the final outcome of the center. As such, political posturing is determining the membership of the sub-committee in order for certain segments of the community to control the outcome. Basically, what you are witnessing is a stacking of the board. The naming of the cultural center and the controversy regarding the sub-committee board chair are part of the background manipulation going in the attempt to take control of the future of the cultural center.

Adding to this backstory are the many political egos, not too mention as the distancing of anything having to do with Mexicans that has historically been a part of El Paso’s history. A history that has been kept deep in the bowels of shady characters trying to change the cultural history of the city by creating cartoon characters as the new palatable identity for the city.

I will continue to update you as the process continues.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

5 replies on “The Backstory to the Cultural Center”

  1. This is absurd. Next on the agenda for City Council will be whether we put “Men” or “Caballeros” on the bathroom door…

  2. Vegas, that’s the most logical solution. But, we are not dealing with rational people.

    I say that it should named the Hispanic Center if only Hispanics had built the city. We have a very rich history of mixed ancestory and various ethic groups that built this city. Was it all a beautiful utopian environment in creating El Paso. Of course not, just like any family, it endured good and bad times. We made a lot of mistakes along the way, but let’s come together and be a showcase of unity. Aren’t we split enough ? We are so divided we can’t even decide on a name for the center. Local media is airing our dirty laundry while we should showing the Bowling participants our best. They don’t bowl all the time. So, they are seeing and hearing everything. What an image ! Oh sure, have a reporter ask them, would you say anything negative to your host?

    What we have here is a small group that is trying to hijack what should be a unifying moment and have turn it into a ” remember when you did this ” ? It possible to exhibit the good, the bad and the ugly. But present it in such a way to showcase how we came together as a city.

    Don’t let these ethnocentrics continue to rub salt in the wounds. Many of them don’t want to assimilate; relive the old days when they had hair and wore red tshirts. Let’s move on ! Why would you want to mistreat other groups in the way you were mistreated ? It stung then and will keep stinging. It will sting those that want to continue and those they want to punish.

    Let’s come together, face the facts. We are a city today because of whites, blacks, yellow, red, brown and a mixture of those races. We have a choice of cuisine, that’s a positive result. We have very attractive people because of their mixed ancestory, that’s a positive. We have a mixture of languages that we are known, that’s a positive. Even our music is a nice blend of other cultures, that’s a positive. Dwell on the positive not the negative ! Continued hate and angry only continues to hurt the perpetrator.

  3. I agree that if it were to be built, we should have events that feature the culture of the many Chinese that helped build the railroad, the Syrian-Lebanese that make up such a large part of El Paso, German, yes the Mexican, Latino etc. There is room for everyone.

  4. Evidence of the anti-Mexican sentiment can be found in the comments above. “Mexicans” will always be second class citizens unless the distance themselves from that like Escobar, Perez and his bobble-head arm candy puppet

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